Drinking cough syrup to get high is one of the drug abuse concerns in the US. Over 5% of young adults and adolescents have abused cough and cold medicines since 2008. There are 3.1 million people between 12 and 25 years old that have abused your common over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.
Many of the over-the-counter cough medications have dextromethorphan in them today. It can cause drunkenness, hallucinations, and a feeling that the body is separate from the mind. While approved by the FDA, they can still be incredibly dangerous when abused. It’s known as a “dissociative” high like taking PCP and other hallucinogens.
Codeine cough syrup was once available as readily as dextromethorphan based medications. It has become much more restricted for a variety of reasons. The Mexican cartel has picked up on this and now provides illicit versions of the once easy-to-get cough syrup. Here are some of the facts revolving around cold and cough medication abuse.
Why Teens Are Abusing Cold Medicine
An alarming amount of teens are drinking cough syrup to get high or drunk. A 2008 study discovered that one in 10 teens in the US abuse DXM to get high. Dextromethorphan abuse statistics show that it is more popular than cocaine, meth, or ecstasy for teens. While medications containing DMX are safe when used properly, higher doses can cause hallucinations and disassociation.
DMX is in a lot of over-the-counter drugs which has made it easily accessible for teens. Teens have a hard time accessing alcohol and other drugs. Cough medicine abuse is cheap, easy to obtain, and legal. Some drug stores have started moving cough medicine bottles behind the counter while others still have cough syrup on the shelves.
Dextromethorphan is an active ingredient in over 100 different medications. These household medications are just a handful:
- Dimetapp DM
- Robitussin DM
- Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Medicine
- Dayquil LiquiCaps
- Vicks Formula 44
- Vicks NyQuil
How Much Robitussin to Get You High?
It’s challenging to break down how much of a cough syrup you need to get high from as every person’s body is different. The following numbers are generalized and there are various factors. The general guideline is;
- The first plateau to produce euphoric sensations from dextromethorphan is a dose of 100 mg to 200 mg.
- The second plateau which will make you feel much more than the first is 200 mg to 400 mg.
- The third plateau is 300 mg to 600 mg.
- A full blown dissociative state would occur when 600 mg to 1,500 mg.
What the SAMHSA Report Says about DMX Cough Syrup Abuse
SAMHSA did a report on over the counter cough and cold medications and how they’re being abused. These medications for your average cold or cough have active ingredients that alter the mind when abused.
Dextromethorphan (DMX) is an antitussive. It works on the body by reducing activity in the brain that triggers the coughing mechanism. Basically, it suppresses coughing so it’s found in many brands of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. The DMX drug can produce euphoric feelings along with dissociative effects. Users may hallucinate when taken in large quantities.
SAMSHA released these stats on cough syrup abuse:
- In 2006, there were just over 3 million people from 12 to 25 that had used over-the-counter medication for the purpose of getting high. That’s 5.3% of the population in the US.
- Nearly 1 million teens and young adults had used within the past year.
- Females from the ages 12 to 17 were misusing cough syrup and cold medications in the past year. However, among adults aged 18 to 25, males were more prone to abusing cold medications.
Risks of Combining Substances with DMX
Teens not only abuse DMX by taking more than recommended, they also combine other substances with it. This can prove to be lethal whether it’s a first time use or someone who regularly abuses DMX. Any antidepressant prescription drug mixed with dextromethorphan can be fatal.
When mixed with DMX, MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) will kill you. Other antidepressants can cause the onset of serotonin syndrome which comes with side effects like; high body temperature, tremors, dilated pupils, and diarrhea. It is potentially fatal.
Diet drugs such as Redux and phen-fen can also cause serotonin syndrome when combined with the DMX drug. When mixed with non- drowsy allergy medicines like Allegra, overdose symptoms include nausea, vomiting and allergic reactions.
DMX Overdose Symptoms
Dextromethorphan overdose will be different for every person. How often the person has been abusing cough medicine or cold medication is a factor. There is a certain tolerance when higher doses have been taken for long periods so symptoms won’t be so intense. An overdose for someone abusing DMX for the first time can be severe.
Side effects of dextromethorphan overdose include:
- Nausea, dizziness, vomiting.
- Unsteady movements.
- Vision changes.
- Heart beat increases.
- Difficulty breathing.
Cough Syrup with Codeine
There was a time when codeine didn’t require a prescription. This has since changed. Sale of cough syrup that contains codeine is now tracked by federal and state authorities. Codeine was moved into Schedule III, being more closely monitored when added to cough syrups. This crackdown was a result from the meth production in labs across the US that used cough and cold medicines with codeine.
Codeine is a prescription opioid drug that treats mild pain and suppresses your cough. Alcohol was removed from the codeine-based syrups and they have greater restrictions. The cough syrup with codeine abuse has therefore declined in the US among teens.
Mexican Cartel and Codeine Cough Syrup
While the demographics of codeine cough syrup abuse has changed, it’s still a major issue in the US. This is all revolving around the rap scene who somewhat glorified “Purple Drank.” This was the original cough syrup with codeine that rappers started abusing and rapping about. Rappers have called the act of drinking codeine cough syrup sipping ‘lean’.
The company who originally manufactured the purple cough syrup took it off the shelves. The Mexican cartel has capitalized on this and started smuggling knock-off versions into Texas. They are selling it for a high price and people are buying despite the deaths. DJ Screw introduced the act of “sipping lean’, a nickname for Actavis, a cough syrup with codeine.
The Lean Scene is a documentary about codeine cough syrup. Actavis was the original choice which has now been taken off shelves. In the 1990’s, it was about $100 for a pint. Now that it’s rare and people are addicted, it goes for about $2,000 for a pint on the black market.
Rappers Popularizing Codeine Cough Syrup
Sizzurp. Purple Drank. Oil. Lean. That is something you may have heard rappers perform in the past. Abusing cough syrup is heavily connected to the hip hop culture. Many celebrities have been hospitalized or died through abusing cough syrup with codeine. They will mix what they call ‘sizzurp’ with intoxicants like marijuana or into alcohol.
In 2008, DJ Screw had died of an overdose and Lil Wayne told MTV in an interview that he couldn’t quit because the withdrawal pangs were too intense. Another wrapper named Weezy appeared in the real-life drama, “Purple Drank Will Kill You in the End” and spoke about the two seizures he experienced while on his private jet.
Another rapper, Pimp C, had overdosed on cough syrup due to his pre-existing condition of sleep apnea. While they said the death was an accident and not due to overdosing on cough syrup, connections are pretty obvious based on his music. He had many cough syrup references in his lyrics.
Side Effects of a Codeine Cough Syrup Overdose
As there is often a combining of different substances, there may be many more side effects than this if you’re abusing codeine cough syrup. Here are the specific side effects of a codeine cough syrup overdose:
- Severe dizziness or drowsiness.
- Bazaar thoughts that lead to strange behavior.
- Unable to urinate.
- The heart rate and pulse slow down.
- Weak, shallow breathing.
- Memory loss.
- Feelings of euphoria.
A codeine overdose has the potential to kill you. The serious symptoms indicating that your body is shutting down include;
- Slow breathing and heart rate.
- Severe drowsiness.
- Inability to use your muscles.
- Cold, clammy skin.
- Pinpoint pupils.
- Severe constipation.
- Noisy breathing.
Potential Addiction to Codeine Cough Syrup
Those who have taken codeine for long periods of time may have a hard time stopping alone. When they do abstain, the following symptoms will indicate a dependency or addiction to codeine cough syrup.
- Aching muscles.
- Profuse sweating.
- Stomach pains.
- Fever and chills.
Recovering from a Codeine Cough Syrup Addiction
The drug cocktail known as ‘purple drank’ or ‘lean’ may require you to get cough syrup addiction treatment. Codeine is an opioid and therefore, there are addictive qualities involved. As addiction starts to take hold, you may fail to carry out your usual responsibilities. Legal issues due to irrational behavior while high is common place.
When it comes to a codeine cough syrup addiction, the best approach will be detox. Sometimes, small doses of benzodiazepines will be incorporated if you were mixing alcohol with the cough syrup. Buprenorphine may be prescribed as well to ease off the withdrawal pangs that come from opioid addiction through codeine. Aside from medically assisted detox, there should be a full rehabilitation plan to follow.
Legal but Harmful
Cough and cold medication, when abused, can wreak havoc on your life. It may seem like a harmless high at first but all too often codeine cough syrup users and people taking DXM based medications will go too far. Mixing with other drugs and alcohol, abusing cough syrup daily, and pushing limits physically has caused fatalities.
Though DXM is legal and codeine syrup is something that can be prescribed, it is by no means safe. Abusing cough and cold medicines can cause a myriad of problems in your life which range from dependence to brain damage and even death. It’s important to take it seriously if you notice you, or someone you care about has a problem with codeine syrup or medications with DMX.